If you are just getting started on planning a trip to Walt Disney World (or thinking about planning one), chances are you have a lot of questions. There is a lot of information for you to consider and terms you might not understand. Let me break down some of the basics for you:
There are 4 Theme Parks and 2 Water Parks just for starters– This can be a frustrating concept for some people to grasp. Disney World is more than just Magic Kingdom, where Cinderella Castle is located. Many people who have not yet visited do not realize the vastness of the Disney World Resort. Disney World includes 4 theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Epcot. It also includes 2 water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. On top of that, there is a whole area called Disney Springs that is full of a variety of restaurants and shopping, and 20 Disney resorts on property.
- ADR (AKA: Advanced Dining Reservation) – These are the dining reservations that you make for the restaurants at Disney World (and the restaurants at the resorts and Disney Springs shopping area). While anyone can make dining reservations at most restaurants 180 days in advanced, if you are staying at a Disney resort during your trip you can make reservations for an additional 10 days after your arrival date. So, if you have a 7 day stay at a Walt Disney World resort, you can call to make dining reservations for your entire stay at the 180 day from your arrival date. Those that are not staying at a Disney resort will need to wait to make reservations 180 days from each date they want to dine at the restaurant. This gives Disney resort guests a slight advantage over others dining at Disney restaurants.
- FastPass+ – This allows you to skip the standby lines on select Disney rides and attractions. You can select three rides or attractions from a single park for each day of park tickets that you have purchased, to skip waiting in the standby line. You will select a one-hour time period that you will be able to show up to the ride and enter through the “FastPass line”, which allows you to bypass others waiting to ride. Once you have used up your three FastPasses for the day you can add additional ones one at a time through kiosks in the parks or through the My Disney Experience app on your smartphone. I believe not knowing about FastPass+ is one thing that causes people to have a bad experience at Disney World. If you have purchased tickets you can make your FastPass+ selections 30 days before your ticket date, or if you are staying at a Disney resort you can begin choosing FastPasses 60 days before your arrival date.
- MagicBand – If you are staying at a Disney World resort, your MagicBand is a simply a bracelet/band that you wear during your Disney World vacation. However, the MagicBand is your key to your hotel room, ticket into the theme parks/water parks, entrance into FastPass+ lines, way to track PhotoPass images, and way to charge items and food to your room. If you are not staying at a Disney resort, you will be given a card (same style as a debit/credit card) as your ticket into the parks, but you can purchase a MagicBand at multiple locations in the parks and have your theme park tickets and FastPass selections added to it.
- PhotoPass – All over the Disney World theme parks there are photographers waiting to take your pictures. This is a great way to get family/group pictures at Disney without having one person missing from the photo or needing to ask a stranger to take your picture for you. They are strategically placed around the parks to capture your photos with some of the great Disney landmarks (like Cinderella Castle in the background) and with the Disney characters you can meet all around. They can even add a little Disney magic to your images. You can purchase these photos one by one, or you can purchase Memory Maker to have downloadable access to all your vacation photos captured through PhotoPass.
- Cast Members – These are the amazing Disney workers that you will find all over, from the parks to the stores to the restaurants and resorts. These people work tirelessly to make sure that every Disney guests has an amazing experience.
- Extra Magic Hours – Another benefit for Disney resort guests are Extra Magic Hours. When you stay at a Disney resort you can take advantage of Extra Magic Hours that allow you to get into certain parks an hour early each day or stay an hour late. Disney day guests that are not staying at the resorts do not have access to the park during these times. You will want to check the schedule before your trip to see which parks are included on which day.